206 leaves, 257 mm. by 180 mm., complete, collation: i-v12, vi4 [of 6, v-vi cancelled], vii-ix12, x10, xi-xviii12, with horizontal catchwords, late medieval foliation omits '88' (pencil foliation by Eric Millar followed here), 28-29 lines, ruled in plummet, written-space 143 mm. by 83 mm., writing begins below top line, written in dark brown ink in a neat gothic bookhand (with a change of scribe for the Metaphysica), some calligraphic ornament in last lines of rectos or within capital letters (such as two faces within an 'M' on fol. 102r), paragraph-marks in red or blue, running-titles in alternately red and blue letters with some flourishing, opening words of the De Caelo et Mundo and Meteora in red and blue capitals with contrasting penwork, 2- to 3-line initials in red or blue with penwork infill and marginal decoration in the contrasting colour, two larger initials in divided red and blue (4-line on fol. 59r, 5-line on fol. 94r) with full-length penwork in both colours, four large illuminated initials (8-line on fol. 65r, 7-line on fol. 1r, and 6-line on fols. 151v and 124r) in gothic leafy designs in colours and burnished gold, with heightening in white, including lions' heads or dragons' bodies, mostly with branching marginal extensions, many contemporary marginal notes and glosses (in certain sections only, other sections evidently unused by the owner), a bird drawn on fol. 18v, occasional rubbing and minor thumbing, a few words smudged and re-written on fol. 111v, generally in extremely fine fresh condition with very wide margins, bound in early nineteenth-century English dark blue morocco gilt [by Charles Lewis], arms of Henry Drury on each cover, vellum endleaves, gilt edges, in a quarter morocco fitted case, title gilt
(1) Doubtless written in Paris, for university use. On the last leaf is an early fifteenth-century note, "Iste est de libris quondam bone memorie fratris lodovici de padua lectoris", 'from the books of the late Friar Louis of Padua, lector'. He may be the Franciscan friar of this name who renounced various articles in Paris in 1362 (H. Denifle, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, III, p. 95, no. 1270) and he might also be the 'Ludovicus of Padua' whose books and other goods were listed after his death in Padua in 1428, including a 'logicam Aristotelis' (G. Valentinelli, Biblioteca Manuscripta ad S. Marci Venetiarum, VI, 1873, p. 254).
(2) The Rev. Henry Drury (1778-1841), of Harrow, with his arms on the binding; there is a pencil price in the corner of fol. 1r, "3.3.5", possibly the Aristotle offered by Thorpe, cat. part iii, 1824, no. 16668; Drury sale, Evans, 20 February 1827, lot 393.
(3) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), his MS 3883, bought through Thorpe at the Drury sale.
(4) Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968), his W MS 65, bought privately from the Phillipps collection, February 1923; his sale, 3 December 1968, lot 15.
(5) A private collector, bought from Dawson's, cat. 200 (1969); and by descent to the present owner.
E. G. Millar, The Library of A. Chester Beatty, II, 1930, pp. 114-6, and pl. CXLIV.
C. de Hamel, 'Chester Beatty and the Phillipps Manuscripts', The Book Collector, 40, 1991, p. 364 (reprinted, The Pleasures of Bibliophily, 2003, p. 244).
This is one of the finest extant manuscripts of three of the greatest scientific texts of the ancient world, in the Latin translations in which they transformed the knowledge of physics, chemistry and mathematics in the European Middle Ages. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was the inventor of the method of empirical and scientific study of the natural world. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Aristotle in ancient Greece or the transformation of scientific thought when these texts exploded into the curriculum of the university of Paris in the second quarter of the thirteenth century.
The principal translator here was Gerald of Cremona (c.1114-1187), who worked principally in Toledo, where he had access to both Arabic and Hebrew texts. According to Millar, p. 114, the Metaphysics in the present manuscript are "in an unusual form, book I being the Greco-Latin translation, and books II-XI being the full version from the Arabic, as found in Brit. Mus. Royal MSS 12.D.XIV ...&c". In the lower margin of fol. 203v is an interesting addition, headed, "hec littera est magis correcta", beginning, "Translatio Johannis. Si ergo idem fuerit semper ...", an alternative translation known also marginal notes in three other manuscripts (Cambridge University Library, Basel Universitätsbibliothek, and Naples, Biblioteca nazionale); it apparently derives from the rare tenth-century Greek-Arabic version of Aristotle by Yahya ibn 'Adi (cf. G. Lacombe, Aristoteles latinus, Pars Prior, 1939, p. 64).
This is a university text but of great luxury. "The margins are of exceptional width, and must be almost, if not quite, in their original state" (Millar, p. 115), in anticipation of massive glossing.
Folio 1r, De Caelo et Mundi, book I, in the Vetus translatio of Gerald of Cremona (Lacombe, op. cit., p. 53, no. 18), opening "Summa congitionis [sic] et nature et sciencie ... ", followed by books II (fol. 18v), III (fol. 44v) and VI (fol. 59r), all ending on fol. 64v, "... intentionem nostram in eo, Explicit liber de celo et mundo".
Folio 65r, Meteora, books I-III, in the Vetus translatio of Gerald of Cremona, opening "Quoniam precessit rememoracio nostra ...", and book IV in the translation of Henricus Aristippus (Lacombe, op. cit., p.56, no. 23), opening "Quoniam quidem iiii cause determinate ..." (fol. 94r), with additions of three chapters from the De mineralibus of Avicenna, in the translation of Alfredus Anglicus (Alfred of Shareshill, fl. c. 1200, canon of Lichfield, cf. R. Sharpe, A Handlist of the Latin Writers, 1997, p. 55, no. 108) , opening "Terra puta lapis non fit ..." (fol. 107v), all ending on fol. 110v, "... quedam extranee. finit. Expliciunt metheorores".
Folio 111v, Metaphysica, book I, in the Vetus translatio (Lacombe, op. cit., p. 63, no. 40), opening "Incipit methphisica aristotilis, Omnes homines natura scire desiderant ...", with books II-XI in the more recent translation of the 'Metaphysica nova' attributed to Michael Scot (1175-c.1232, also of Toledo, described by Dante, Boccaccio and others as a magician), opening on fol. 124r, "Consideratio quidem in veritate difficilis est ...", followed by books III (fol. 132r), IV (fol. 141r), V (fol. 152r), VI (fol. 165v), VII (fol. 168v), VIII (fol. 182v), IX (fol. 186v), X (fol. 193v) and XI (fol. 201r), all ending on fol. 206v, "... contrarium boni et intellectus, Explicit undecimus phisice Aristotilis". Offsets of clasps on fol. 111r suggest that the Metaphysica were once bound as a separate volume, or first in the present manuscript, but the late medieval foliation indicates that the texts were by that time already in their present sequence.
There are tiny contemporary numbers in the extreme lower margins of every eighth leaf ('i', fol. 8v; 'ii', fol. 16v, 'iii', fol. 24v, 'iiii', fol. 32v, 'v', fol. 40v, 'vi', fol. 48v, 'viii', fol. 64v; and so on, in separately numbered sequences for each of the three texts, 8 for the De Caelo et Mundo, 6 for the Meteorologica, and 12 for the Metaphysica). On fols. 110v and 118v the number is accompanied by the word "quaternus". Millar supposed that these were pecia numbers. This not the normal position or style of pecia numbering, and the totals do not correspond with the Paris pecia lists for these three texts (cf. G. Murano, Opere diffuse per 'Exemplar' et pecia, 2005, p. 120, nos. 6, 8 and 9). The numbers may represent some other calculation of scribal payment or calculation for the use of the volume as an exemplar.
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